Here Comes Mrs Kugelman

Written by Minka Pradelski
Review by Judith Starkston

Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman is an allegorical sort of novel about remembrance. Mrs. Kugelman is a Holocaust survivor, and she is determined no one forgets the little Polish town she grew up in. She announces to the narrator, Tsippy Silberberg, that all of the teachers and students in her childhood school are alive in Israel through a mystical process. “There’s a group of us classmates who keep them alive. We tell stories about them…before you know it they’re up and moving.”

Tsippy, whose own parents’ refusal to discuss their pre-war childhoods has left Tsippy with emptiness, has come to Tel Aviv from Germany to receive her inheritance from an aunt: a 70-year-old empty suitcase and a partial silver fish service. Tsippy suffers from a mania for ice and for eating frozen vegetables straight from the freezer: “My icy addiction shields me from the world but also keeps me bound.”

Mrs. Kugelman appears uninvited in Tsippy’s hotel room and begins to tell stories. She returns daily, and these visits are intermixed with Tsippy’s surreal excursions around Tel Aviv in search of a husband. The stories are reminiscent of traditional Jewish Chelm folktales in some ways. They frequently have an irrational and/or symbolic quality to them. Pradelski uses these stories to capture the details and meaning of a lost Jewish world and to lead us to its inevitable destruction.

This is a book about the legacy of the Holocaust on survivors, with their silences (especially with their own children) and the conflicting need to remember. It is also about how that legacy bound and marked the next generation.